The massively overgrown lilac bush in our front yard has bothered me ever since we moved in: It is too tall and morbidly obese; It sends up suckers over an enormous area; It is so mature and spread out that it doesn’t even bloom well. Oh, and its roots are growing into my sewer drain, requiring an annual service call from Sewergirl. Thanks for nuthin’, Lilac!
In an attempt to get the lilac under control, I began pruning it last year by removing six of the eighteen trunks that sprout from alongside my front steps. The plan was to take a third of the mature trunks each year for three years and allow new growth to come up gradually to form a new shrub.
I officially abandoned the gradual part of the plan this spring when Ms. Bungalow gave me permission to take down not just another third, but all of the remaining mature trunks. The day after I got the “okay” from Ms. B, I was out front with my little bow saw carving up the old lilac. As the pile of branches grew, I began to wonder if I was ready for the dramatic change that was developing. When it was all done, I’ll admit I was not sure I had made an improvement. Ms. Bungalow asked if she could revoke her permission. It was starting to feel like the time I shredded an important work document, only no amount of scotch tape and patience would put the lilac back together.
After living with the change for a few days, I’ve begun feeling much better about it. In fairness, the “before” picture was taken in the middle of the growing season, and in the “after” pictures the plants are barely budding. The yard should look a lot less bleak in a few weeks when the plants have greened up and begun to flower. Green plants or not, the house is certainly more exposed now, but I think with a little work on the landscaping the bungalow’s curb appeal will be better than before. The house seems to face the street more now, and the improved visibility of the front door should make it more secure and inviting.
But before we do any more landscaping, we have one more decision to make about the lilac. We could let the new growth develop and over some years prune it to a more pleasing shape, or we could finish the lilac for good, remove the stump and roots, and put something new in its place. I’m leaning toward stump removal, but it will require paying for a crew of ogres with a truck and a winch to do the work. If we make that happen, we’ll also be rolling the dice on whether the sewer line can escape the stump extraction without further damage. Emergency sewer repair would be a fitting final kiss-off from this ornery old shrub.